Comrade Roth has been threatening to write a blog about this guy for weeks because, well, because sometimes mere remembering a guy isn’t enough. It’s just that life intervenes, especially during goddamn football season.
Monday, though, in an otherwise inconsequential game, the first of a doubleheader between the nowheresville Cleveland Baseballeteers and the South Nowheresville Royals, Salvador Perez became the best home-run hitting catcher ever.
It means little enough when you type the words, less than that when you read them, perhaps, and least of all when you consider that it is the kind of nerdstat that moves only the nerdiest of nerds, but when Perez hit his 46th homer of the year, off Cleveland’s designated lightpole Triston McKenzie, he also reminded us that nobody does the thing Perez does anymore. He plays every day, or damned near. Only teammate Whit Merrifield and Toronto second baseman Marcus Semien have played every game, and even allowing for the 34 games in which Perez DH’d, he is still the guy who takes no days off while squatting about 150 times a game and nearly 20,000 times this year, more than every other catcher in their worst night terrors.
Let me repeat that: He’s missed practically no games. Just the one, August 6, a Friday night in St. Louis, and maybe two, if you choose to dismiss a pinch-hitting appearance two weeks later against the Cubs as a night off. Maybe he lacks the necessary gumption against National League teams, who knows?
But nobody would have noticed or cared much about any of that if he hadn’t hit those 46 homers. Even in this day and age, especially in this day and age, the home run is the entryway to everything else in baseball. This homer was the 5,489th of the season, and this season figures to produce the third-highest number of home runs in history. It’s just what happens.
In addition, Perez is by far the best-hitting catcher in a field almost entirely absent of such creatures. Only three catchers have a better OPS. Only three have a better batting average. Nobody comes within the 60th percentile of him in homers or RBIs, even with him on a team that ranks 22nd in runs scored. He is 31 years old, and by any standard should be four years past his prime. Instead, he will play more games, have more plate appearances, and physically catch more innings than at any time in his career.
And the Royals? Freshly eliminated from a race they were never in to begin with, and anonymous in all ways except this one. The early middle-aged child Comrade Roth never knew he had, with 12 more games to hit four more homers for the nicest, roundest number this side of the two guys who will split most of the American League MVP votes, Vladimir Guerrero The Younger and Shohei Ohtani. Salvador Perez should play every game until he gets that 50th, not because chasing stats is noble, but because sometimes it’s all there is.